Entornointeligente.com / Setting aside concerns that a trip to the border is “not going to change a damn thing,” Donald Trump arrived in McAllen, Texas, on Thursday to surveil the site of his proposed border wall and make the case for $5.7 billion to fund it. As his administration weighs whether he has leeway to use emergency powers to reappropriate Defense Department money, the president has run up against additional harsh realities, including dwindling support among Republicans, and unyielding Texas landowners, some of whom, according to the Associated Press, would take the fight to court should the government attempt to seize their property via eminent domain. (“You could give me a trillion dollars and I wouldn’t take [a buyout offer],” declared one landowner.) Perhaps the most hilarious hiccup in the president’s plan is one he inadvertently introduced when he acquiesced to a “steel slat” fence—rather than a concrete wall—a barrier that can be overcome with the sort of tools one would find at Home Depot.
An internal February 2018 U.S. Customs and Border Protection report—a redacted version of which was first obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request by KPBS —described a test run by the Department of Homeland Security in late 2017, in which D.H.S. employees were challenged to breach all eight border-barrier prototypes, both concrete and steel, with anything they had on hand. Per the report, all eight prototypes failed the test, with the steel-slat design favored by the president falling prey to a common saw.
In a statement to NBC, D.H.S. spokeswoman Katie Waldman explained that the steel-bollard design had been in use for over a decade, and had served as a successful deterrent, rather than a physical barrier. “The steel-bollard design is internally reinforced with materials that require time and multiple industrial tools to breach, thereby providing U.S. Border Patrol agents additional response time to affect a successful law-enforcement resolution,” she said. “In the event that one of the steel bollards becomes damaged, it is quick and cost-effective to repair.”
“Providing U.S. Border Patrol agents additional response time” is nothing to sniff at, but it’s a far cry from Trump’s feverish demands for a big, beautiful, concrete, rebar-strengthened wall that would stretch from sea to shining sea. This sort of walk-back has effectively been in progress for months; in September 2017, for example, then-D.H.S. spokesman David Lapan told Breitbart News, “‘The Wall’ doesn’t mean a single, monolithic structure, but refers instead to a combination of walls, fences, and barriers complemented by the smart and effective use of technology.” In recent weeks, Trump himself has wavered on the exact makeup of his preferred barrier, tweeting that steel was “stronger” and “less obtrusive” than concrete, and (falsely) claiming that a steel barrier had been requested by Democrats.
Of course, what really matters to the president isn’t what Democrats think, but how the ultimate iteration of said wall would be received by the 25 percent of Americans who say they “supported Trump shutting down the government over the matter.“ Judging by Ann Coulter and Stephen Miller’s recent media appearances, the base is gradually warming to the prospect: “[Israel’s] border wall with Egypt, I believe, is part wall and part fence. It was 99 point-something effective,” Coulter told Breitbart News last week, quoting a statistic Trump claims to have heard from Benjamin Netanyahu.
Addressing Border Patrol agents in McAllen on Thursday, Trump said steel is “more expensive” than concrete, but stronger: “I like it better, if you want to know the truth.” Unfortunately for the president, steel slats appear to be less popular with some elements on the far right than the sort of prison-yard walls one might find in Israel. How ironic if, after shutting down the government to appease the base, MAGA-world sours on Trump’s great wall, anyway?
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